May It Please the Court?

Yesterday, I wrote about the juvenile justice project we’re conducting at the remand home.  This effort, like so much of the work well-meaning organizations do, is only a bandage.  In many ways, the Uganda legal system feels, metaphorically, like the levees I see on CNN holding back the Mississippi floodwaters.  The Ugandan legal system is flooded with work.  It’s backlogged.

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With the juvenile justice project, we’re just put our pail in the floodwaters and throwing it to the side.  It barely makes a dent and the waters continue to rise.  The answer is to build a new structure to better manage the water before the levee breaks.

This is where Pepperdine can come in to help.  We are good at thinking through new STRUCTURES.  We’ve been hard at work on implementing plea bargaining, but it’s going to take a lot of thought.  Much has to be done before a new, efficient structure can be fully integrated.  Pepperdine needs to collaborate with the judiciary on projects such as writing sentencing guidelines that will direct the plea bargaining process.

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On the juvenile front, we’ve been asked to work with the Uganda Judiciary to help them revamp the juvenile justice system.  It needs to be overhauled and Pepperdine students have the capacity that the judiciary doesn’t due to its load and limited manpower. 

Together, we can build a new system that effectively manages the flood.  Hopefully we can prevent the backlog, especially for kids, and see that justice is done in a way that we no longer have to return to help with children’s cases.

And, to answer the question I posed in the title of this blog entry, YES, it does please the court.

The continuation of our work was once again confirmed by today’s important meetings with the Chief Justice, Deputy Chief Justice, and Principle Judge.  All are pleased with the collaboration between Pepperdine and Uganda have asked for more.  We are in a position to truly achieve the structural change that matters.

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How did we get here—to a place that many justice-seeking organizations envy?  Relationships.  We became friends.  Our partnership with Uganda, in my mind, is characterized by friendship.  We serve them through the assistance we can provide and they serve us in many, chiefly by giving our students the incredible experience of working in Uganda.

To achieve meaningful and lasting change, we must first start as friends.

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